Faithful Obedience by Lisa Leidenfrost

There are many things I love and respect about my friend Lisa. But if I had to choose one reason why I want to pursue her friendship in the years to come is that she is a woman who prays and fights with the Word of God in hand. It doesn’t matter if you are having tea in her home, or going on a walk with her, she will always encourage you to trust God, pray to God, and fight the Devil and your flesh with the Word of God.

Thank you, Lisa, for sharing with us today.

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He Has You, that Much
by Lisa Leidenfrost

People say “God is so good” especially after an unexpected answer to prayer or when someone is delivered from a trial in a great way. But, what if, after praying hard for deliverance or for a certain answer, that answer goes against what you had wanted, almost in the opposite direction? Now where are you? Can you still say with all your heart “God is so good” and really mean it? Yes, you can, and I can tell you why. It is because God is – period. He doesn’t change. His character remains the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is sure, constant, and does not move with the variables of life. He is someone you can count on over and over and over again.

So, when life gets scary, He is the only safe place to be. But, in the confusion of the unexpected that quickly turns to alarming, and when you are trying to make sense of it all, it is very easy to get derailed. That is why it is important to always go back to what you do know, and to stand there first before you interpret the rest.

So, what do you know about God that doesn’t ever change based upon the truth of His word?

God is good.
 God loves you (John 17:23). 
God listens to your prayers.
 God is open to your cry and answers when you call (Psalm 145:18,19). 
God is in control of your life.
 God gave the trial and means good from it 
God wants to bless you through this.
 God will walk with you every step of the way and will not forsake you (Hebrews 13:5,6).

These promises, along with many others, can be found in His Word. They are solid and don’t change, therefore you can rely on them. These are the positive things that you can know. But, the Bible also says that you have an enemy against you, the devil, (Eph. 6:12) who will be undermining all the above by telling you lies like: God does not love you. You are all alone and He doesn’t hear, nor will act on your behalf. So therefore, you must scramble to act on your own, or curl up in a ball and give up.

These lies come on the heels of feelings that are caught up in the turmoil of the moment. When it doesn’t feel like the above things are true because bad things are happening to you, that is especially the time you need to stand on what you do know to be true and make the choice to stay there by faith. You stand on God’s promises because they are true. Feelings on the other hand are fickle and change depending on a host of variables. They are not based on anything super solid, which can lead you astray. Hanging onto the truth in the battle is the only thing that can keep you standing in the thick of the fight. When you use the shield of faith (Eph. 6:16) in God’s promises you can quench all the fiery darts (doubts) of the enemy. But you have to be in His word to know what those promises are and to know how to use them. Then, you have to choose to believe them in faith, because doing so gets you back up on the God who is the giver of those promises. Resting on God alone is the surest foundation. It is believing what He is telling you. It is not being fearful because He has your situation in His hand, in spite of the emotion that is right there telling you the opposite.

Do I know what I’m talking about? Yes. We, as missionaries to the Ivory Coast, have just completed a Bible translation in a language that hadn’t been written before. We raised our children in a village, in the tropics, with no electricity or running water. We’ve had various health issues, including typhoid with no doctor nearby. We went through numerous times of unrest, got caught in a war, and had to flee when they were after whites. During the hardest time of the evacuation my health crashed, leaving me a functional shut in for years with an unknown and potentially scary condition. Then on top of all that, later my daughter, who had helped me when I was down, got Multiple Sclerosis, a potentially debilitating disease. Speak about things not going the way we thought they should! Yet God still triumphs through it all. How do I know this? Because He says He does, and I’ve seen it in action. I have learned to see things through His perspective rather than mine.

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37).

“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place” (2 Cor. 2:14).

He triumphs not in spite of the problems but because of them. When we need Him, His strength comes through. He acts, then blesses, and turns hard situations into opportunities that glorify Him and form His character in us. And in doing so, He is advancing His kingdom and getting us fit for eternity with Him.

“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Cor. 12:9).

So, how did He come through for us? By God’s grace I was healed of my condition years later, and just recently the translation was finished even after many set backs and hindrances. We thank God for all these things. And even for the things that have not been answered yet, like my daughter Noai’s healing, God has been so faithful in helping my daughter and her husband walk through this, one step at a time. We all can see the hand of God doing marvelous things, teaching them His character, wisdom and glory. These are all things that count and that will not be taken away from them. And, in spite of all their challenges, they are a very joyful family.

No matter what the outcome, God is so good through it all. God’s wild path is always better, over our ideal one, because it is the path to glory, hardships and all. Therefore, when you choose to give your ‘Amen’ to the hard path He has chosen, it will be credited to you as faith because you are believing He will come through in His way. If you wait to give your ‘Amen’ to it after you are in heaven and can finally see that it was the best path, it will no longer be faith. So, you might as well give your ‘Amen’ now and at least be credited with faith.

Yet, if we could choose, we would choose the path that is not so hard. We can wonder, why can’t God just let us live an ideal life and still accomplish His purposes? That would be nice but consider this, when we are weak, when we really need God, that is when we have to rely on God’s strength alone. God’s strength is the ultimate strength, so when we have access to that power and use it, we have access to everything, and therefore are truly strong and are becoming more like Christ. Consider that we often don’t access his strength when we can still stand on our 
own. So, needing Him, and building up our faith means far more to God than letting us live our life of ease, because without faith it is impossible to please God. (Heb. 11:6) Do we really want a milk toast life with an immature faith that has not been tested in the fire?

Another aspect to consider is that He is up to something good because the trial always goes beyond just yourself. It affects others too in God’s overarching plan. When you go through a trial faithfully, which means looking to Him continuously in all the ups and downs, God is 
working in your heart and this affects others, giving them courage to walk in faith as well. This process is moving His kingdom forward by building up His people through the great cloud of witnesses that keep accumulating. He has eternity in mind because this earth is not all there is.

Even though we may understand all the above, it is still hard down in the trenches. So how do you handle a great disappointment, or disastrous turn of events? The first thing you do is to run to the one who gave you that trial. If you run away because God is too dangerous, you will be 
doubly hit, first with the trial and secondly from being cut off from the help you would have gotten. You must daily cry out to Him. And, it is OK to cry, to feel grief, to mourn a loss because we are human. But when we do, we need to do it in faith and not despair, in hope and not in fear, with a joy that rests on God’s character alone and not the situation. So, run to God. Tell Him all about it. Let His love wash over you and let those everlasting arms catch you underneath. He knows and understands, and He wants to take your hand and lead you.

“I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved” (Psalm 16:8).

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run to it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10).

Let Him protect you, pick you up when you collapse, comfort you when you cry, carry you when you are weak, and gently lift you up when you are down in a pool of discouragement.

“As a father pities His children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For he knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13,14).

Yes, He does pick you up, forgives the hopelessness that has engulfed you, then places the sword of the Spirit and the shield of faith back in your hands and teaches you how to fight anew. You are never without help in whatever form you need.

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1,2).

God is either who He says He is, or He is not. Therefore, we can get up and fight with hope and above all to stand in confidence. So much so, that you can even go off rejoicing after you have given your burden to Him, because He has you that much.

Lisa Leidenfrost

-You can find the index to the series Faithful Obedience at the bottom of this post.
-The latest in this series: A post by Laurie Ditton on how God has been faithful to her and her husband as they submitted to His will bringing her sick and elderly mom to live with them.

Faithful Obedience by Laurie Ditton

When I think of all the people God has put in our lives to teach us, to encourage us, to host us, to love on us, my heart overflows with gratitude. God has given us His Word as our rule to know how we must live and to also know what we are to believe. And in His kindness, He has also given us many examples of brothers and sisters that live in faithful obedience to Him so that we might imitate, and I am deeply grateful for that.

Laurie has been an example to me. She is a faithful friend who bears her crosses without ever complaining. Her mouth is full with words of gratitude, words that are sweet because they are impregnated with the sweetness of Christ’s Words.

As we read her words, I pray that God will use them to encourage us to persevere in faithful obedience through the trials God has ordained for each one of us.

Faithful obedience is not always easy, but by God’s grace, it is always possible. Let’s keep looking up!

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Last autumn my husband and I brought my elderly mother to live with us. She is eighty nine. She cannot speak. She is incontinent. Her dementia is so far advanced that she no longer recognizes me. But as hard as this is for both of us, more than anything else in my life, the Lord has used it to show me His faithfulness and His grace: His undeserved favor toward those He loves.

The decision to move my mother was not made lightly. We sought counsel and prayed a great deal. We lifted up our concerns, our “what ifs”, our fears. We were honest with God, and while He did not always provide the specifics, He did answer. Gently but clearly, both from circumstance and from scripture. He called us to be faithfully obedient. To live out what we believed. To trust Him. My mother was to come home.

This kind of obedience is not difficult. Knowing exactly what God wants you to do is a great blessing. It’s afterward that’s sometimes a bit harder. Especially when things don’t go quite as expected. Or even close to expected. When doubts creep in it’s time to cling to God’s promises, to remember that He has promised He will never leave nor forsake us. He has promised to make all things work together for good even if we can’t see it. We are to walk by faith.

And God is faithful. I have come to realize that what the last seven months have been is not so much my faithfulness as His, and the faithfulness of other saints whom He has used to bless me.

My faithful prayer group lifts me up before the throne whether I make the meeting or not. They are full of wisdom and joy and laughter as they bear this burden along with me. Several of them have come to sit with her, to talk to her, to read the Bible to her.

My faithful daughter comes once or twice a week to care for mom. She is wiser than I am and encourages me greatly. She brings her three-year old son whose presence always makes my mother smile. Mom’s old bent hand slowly reaches to pat his head. He giggles. God is gracious.

Our faithful physician comes to our home to see her. He treats her with the utmost dignity. He is never rushed, and his advice and support have been invaluable. He recently ordered Hospice care, and a lovely Christian nurse showed up at my door to help me. More grace.

My mother can’t be left alone and the Lord has faithfully provided us with women from our local Christian college and churches to care for her on a regular basis. I am constantly amazed and blessed by their love for Christ and kindness to my mother. One of them brought a book about heaven. Sometimes I read it to her and am reminded of the glory she will soon see. The glory I will one day see. Grace upon grace.

Not that caring for an elderly parent isn’t also a trial. It is hugely time-consuming, it is sometimes unpleasant, and there is the ever present temptation to fear, to feel trapped. It’s then that we need to remind ourselves always to return to His word, to believe His promises. And again, God is gracious. Many of us in this community are reading the Bible together. Our pastor is fond of reminding us that scripture is food. Our Lord is faithful: I am well-fed. He has equipped me for this work.

In trials, I have periodically asked God to show me the thin places, the places where eternity feels close, where the presence of Jesus is astonishingly real. And He is always faithful to answer. Often it’s the words in a sermon that take me there. Or books by saints long in glory. Recently it happened while putting mom to bed. I always walk backward in front of her, holding her hands. Her gait is unsteady, one foot drags behind. Every night she stops in the doorway to her bedroom and peers inside, unsure if she should continue, unable to comprehend what is going on.

One night, looking at my mother, I had a clear picture of myself: stumbling, sometimes fearful, often confused, yet faithfully led by Jesus all the days of my life.

And isn’t it true for each of us?

Our Lord is faithful, He blesses his loved ones with grace.

Laurie Ditton

You can find the list of posts in this series here .

Faithful Obedience by Kate Sumpter

God has ordained specific trials for each one of His children, but with each trial God has promised the grace and the strength needed to walk through it. In this series of Faithful Obedience we are being encouraged to remember that God’s children never walk through suffering in vain because God is faithful. And also, because we know that God is faithful, we can trust Him and respond in faithful obedience at every turn of the page.

Today, Kate Sumpter, a dear Sister in Christ who loves the Lord and His Word deeply, shares with us how she and her husband have walked from the day they heard the hard news of infertility to the joyous news of adoption -always taking the next step sustained by God’s faithfulness.

Read it, share it, be encouraged, and pray for Kate and her family.

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Waiting in Faithfulness

My husband and I are on an adoption waiting list for our second child. We also have a blonde headed six year old daughter whom we adopted as an infant. We’re so thankful to be parents as we were diagnosed with infertility not long into our marriage. Children are a joyful gift of marriage and the union of a man and woman used by God to create new life. And yet, Adam and Eve ate the fruit. Sin entered the world. And wombs are barren.

My husband and I are both from big families and our hope has always been to have many children. I remember having a discussion before we were married about raising kids and that we both thought adoption would be a really neat thing for us to pursue someday. I had watched my friend’s family adopt internationally and God’s goodness to them was evident. I saw adoption as a unique way for God to proclaim His glory.

Adoption is a visible reminder of God’s faithfulness and goodness to us. He adopts each of us through the work of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:5-6 says He “predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” He wills and predestined that we should be His children. Why? Because it gives Him good pleasure. Because He receives praise and glory. Our faithful response to His faithfulness is obedience, praise, and glory.

Faithfulness is practiced and taught. We start young with commands from our parents like make your bed. Brush your teeth. Say thank you. And we grow with each accomplishment into the next bigger task. Or the next harder task. Luke 16:10 reminds us that “he who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.”

I know that all things work together for good, for those that love God (Roman 8:28), even the hard diagnosis of infertility. God was so clear when He closed the door to pregnancy. Our doctor told us that there was nothing else that the medical world could do. Understanding that diagnosis was a time of grief for us, but God graciously brought us through the grief with His Word, especially in hymns and psalms. I had to curb my own desires and plans for my life to faithfully follow where the Lord was directing my steps (Prov 16:9). Contentment isn’t something I am naturally gifted in, but something that God clearly was teaching me through those years. The Lord strips away our own wants and desires to give us His best. The psalmist says “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26) Our fallen flesh had failed and my heart grieved. Yet God sustained my joy and peace by providing Himself for my portion. I cannot lean on anything, but His sovereignty so that I can heartily say, “Not my will, but yours!”

God’s will is always faithful. We followed Him to adoption and for two years we prayed and waited. Then, after only two weeks of knowing she was coming, we received our daughter into our arms! She was a whirlwind gift and one of my favorites. And as she grew, we prayed many times for her to have siblings, but God always said wait. This fall, we saw Him clearly say yes as we pursued Him in our desire.

We prayed specifically for God to bless us with our needs and He answered abundantly. As we told our friends and family that we were hoping to adopt again, they offered to spread the word of our adoption and to help raise funds for us. In the opening of Psalm 67 we find that God blesses His people so that He may be glorified. “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.“ His blessings are a magnification of who He is and it’s something the nations see. His blessings enable us to glorify Him. As we reached each fee along the process, we were met by God’s people abundantly giving as much as was needed. We were overwhelmed by His goodness through His people and His clear answer to our prayers. The blessings poured over us.

A clear example of this came on the last day of last year. We had reached the end of the paperwork in November and our adoption agency told us to finish raising all the funds needed before proceeding. My husband and I brought this to the Lord. We prayed regularly that we could raise the final funds of $10,000 by the end of December. What a hefty figure! But we faithfully followed the Lord knowing that He would provide for us and open the door or He would close the door and give us something else. He is faithful.

By the morning of Dec 31st we knew we were close, but still short by $1,670. But we’re never short on God’s faithful provision. He brought us to the last day of the month to answer our prayer. I received a message from a friend saying there was someone who wanted to donate anonymously whatever final amount was needed. That afternoon when I picked up a check with the exact amount I had tears in my eyes because here was tangible grace in my hand. “As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor 2:9) God loves to answer our prayers and He answered this specific prayer. We asked for a certain amount of money and we asked for a certain day. He gave both.

So my husband and I are on an adoption waiting list for our second child. And if we wait 3 months or 3 years, we know that God has prepared us for His good work. Being faithful to Him through obedience glorifies Him. This is our portion and it is a good pleasure to be His children. We know what faithfulness is because we have seen it. We have seen Him. And so we can wait because He is faithful.

Kate Sumpter

NOTE: You can find the index to the posts in this series here.

Faithful Obedience by Liz Boyd

This week we will have one extra post on our series of Faithful Obedience because one of our guests writers will be going into surgery next Monday (05/06). Because of this, I would love to ask you , dear Sisters, to carry her in your prayers.

I need not say a lot about my Sister in Christ, Liz Boyd. The way she has responded to the news of being diagnosed with breast cancer has been a huge of example to all the women (and men!) in our church of what we read in 1 Peter 3:6: Liz is a daughter of Sarah, a woman who does good and does not fear anything that is frightening.

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I Do Not Deserve This by Liz Boyd

Becky asked me to write a bit about God’s faithfulness during my trial with breast cancer, so here I go! I will warn you first I’m not a writer!

If you don’t love Jesus with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Luke 10:27) this whole blog post might sound counter-intuitive, that’s because it is. The gospel itself, that Christ died for me, is completely counter-intuitive. I must die to live and if I seek to save my own life, I will lose it. This battles our flesh every moment of the day. I was reborn, born again, never to be the same 15 years ago and this post will reflect that, I can’t help it nor do I want to.

I struggle with cheerful obedience in the mundane. Yes, I know the small moments of life make up the big picture…that scares me! I fail in those small moments. I am often like Paul, doing what I don’t want to do and not doing that which I know that I should. (Romans 7:15-24) I struggle doing my chores cheerfully, making lunch cheerfully and folding laundry cheerfully. Other times I am so very cheerful, just not doing the good work the good Lord called me to do! It is so much easier to be cheerful writing a blog about cooking, schooling or potty training than it is to actually do those things in the flesh. It might surprise you to hear that obedience in cancer has been relatively easy. It is so big, so unplanned and so clearly from the hand of God that I ran right into His hands for comfort. For some reason, I fail to notice daily that laundry and making breakfast are from His hand as well and I hate making breakfast more than cancer most days!!!!!

I could walk you through this journey of mine, I could focus on cancer, the doctors, the fear, the exhaustion, and I would be right to do so. There have been a lot of those things. But that isn’t my focus. For some reason, I guess because it’s as clear as day, “you have cancer”, I know that this is God’s will. The fear and bigness of cancer have been replaced with the burden of preaching the gospel through cancer. This is a much stronger and sweeter burden.

The pain and fear of cancer have been present off and on. One minute I’m fine the next I’m weeping because I will never feel a hug from my children the same way ever again. That is a loss. I haven’t struggled with being angry, not at God, but when I explain that all of my nerves will be cut, that my feeling will be gone, that a hug will never ever feel the same again once both of my breasts are removed within the next week and someone reminds me that things are great…I get angry. I know things are great. God is good and all things that come from him are perfect. But I am mourning. I am suffering a loss. I am not suffering a loss of body image, I’m mama to seven children and that loss was suffered in my twenties, I am suffering a loss that is hard to put into words, a loss of feeling. Of course, it will be fine. I know this. But I am lamenting. Let me. Did you know that you could be sad, you could grieve, your heart could ache and it’s not a sin? It’s not. You can be sad and still glorify God, you can experience great loss, greater than your breasts, and still, love Jesus. I know that is true because I am experiencing that now. I love Jesus more now than I ever have before, and I am also suffering a loss.

I have had a lot of women, so many meaning well and meaning to support, tell me to feel angry. I’m not. I will say that I don’t deserve this! I don’t deserve any of this! I don’t mean breast cancer, oh no, not at all. I mean the grace of God. I don’t deserve all of the love we have been shown, I feel like shouting “Give this love to someone else, we’re not great people, we aren’t worth it!” and alas it keeps coming. I cry out to God, feeling overwhelmed every single day with his provision of grace, mercy, joy, and practicality “I DON’T DESERVE THIS”. I don’t. I don’t deserve the many, many, many cards, pictures, checks, meals, toys, clothing, games, flowers, dinners, gift cards, gift baskets, cakes, ice cream, lunch snacks and prayers that we have gotten over the past two weeks. I don’t deserve the friend that made me lunch, showed me her mastectomy scar and said: “Get ready to preach the gospel, no one stops you when you have cancer!”. I don’t deserve the letters filled with scripture or the child care offered for doctors appointments. I don’t deserve the offers to give my children rides to rugby and Logos. I don’t deserve my best friend filling my entire fridge with organic low estrogen foods and leaving her 16-year-old daughter here to love on my girls until my surgery was over. I don’t deserve the family doctor who wrote letters on our behalf to our insurance company with the hopes of them accepting our appeal and covering my medical bills and this was after he went down a rabbit trail to find my hiding cancer. I don’t deserve the many Christian doctors and nurses I have seen over the past two months who have prayed for me and over me. I don’t deserve any of this, and that my friend is the gospel. I am feeling the gospel every day.

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Liz Boyd

NOTE: You can find the index to the posts on this series here.

Faithful Obedience by Robin Zarate

Welcome to another post on this series Faithful Obedience. The aim of this series is to encourage you to be faithful to God and His Word and persevere in faithful obedience. For this, I have invited some friends to share with us how they have learned to live in this faithful obedience to God in the “here and in the now” trusting that you will find good words that will exhort you to press on.

We all know that there are gifts that keep on giving. Well, let me tell you that Robin Zarate is a friend, a gift from God to me, that keeps on giving! We have been friends for many years now and she just keeps pouring into my life!  Robin is a woman that has learned how to be live in faithful obedience to God through many hard circumstances (for example, she has been a widow twice -with four sons, now adults, to raise on her own). And through all these hard Providences she has become more lovely, more joyous, and more like Christ each day. She is a remarkable woman and I am honored to have her share part of her testimony of God’s faithfulness with us today.

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The bathroom light pierced the dark, it was time to get out of bed. I wandered down the steps and caught the smell of fresh brewing coffee. Peter sat with his open bible near the fireplace motioning for me to join him for prayer and a few passages before taking our morning run. We were in our thirties and life was busy living in Mexico City, learning a new language, a new culture, growing a business and a family. I cherished the hours before the sun came up, before the responsibilities of life took us in separate directions for the day. I would joke with Peter that I got him “first” before the rest of the world. Seldom were many words spoken in those predawn hours. At that moment, I had no idea this mundane morning routine was soon to become a treasured memory.

The shocking news of Peter’s death came unexpectedly late that evening as I anticipated his arrival, a taxi robbery gone wrong. The headline of the newspapers the next day called it “Rogue Taxi Crime” as gangs would steal taxis in the city and rob unsuspecting passengers. I looked up the word rogue and found a definition that included, Rogue- “sinister in nature, meant cause to harm.” Like a demolition wrecking ball this news threatened to destroy the sturdy and secure looking life I had. I was heartbroken. Disbelief and shock obscured my view as I fought to make sense of my life being turned upside down.

Sleep never came that first night and as odd as it sounds, I could not cry. Oh, I cried out to God in anguish but not with actual tears. Sitting by the fireplace alone I felt the heat of the glowing embers against the numbing news that caused a deep agony in my soul. So many questions swirled in my head. Peter had been my rock, my husband and father of our children. Parenting four sons together was the joy of his life, how would I do it without him?

My mind raced as I thought of how I was going to break the news to our four small boys, asleep upstairs, unaware of the event that would change their world. I was in shock, everything in me was trying to remember. Remember the last time I saw him, his touch, our last words, my mind naturally wanted to recreate these moments, trying to come to terms with the truth of these unwanted set of circumstances.

I remembered the contents of the last sermon we heard together from Luke 1, the birth announcement of Jesus. I opened my bible and was amazed at how the narrative of Mary encouraged me to consider perhaps, just maybe God was up to something, greater and grander and more glorious than my eyes could see. It gave me hope that night and in the years since then.

The angel Gabriel announced the stunning news to Mary that though she was a virgin she would conceive a son. The scriptures state that she was greatly troubled and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. She could never have expected to hear the most incredible news that she would have a son who would be the promised Messiah. Although she could not comprehend how she would conceive the Savior, she responded to God with humble trust and obedience.

God has used this familiar portion of His word to teach and encourage me to learn to respond to life’s challenges with an informed faith that obeys.

Mary was a good Jewish girl, she knew the Holy Scriptures, she knew the prophecy of Isaiah:

“Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call him Immanuel.”

Although God’s plan for Mary held great honor, it required a costly obedience and would demand great suffering as well. There would be pain in childbirth and pain as mother of the suffering Messiah. Mary embraced God’s word by faith, despite her plans and how she thought her life was going to go. Her response was “Let it be to me as you have said, behold the handmaiden of the Lord”, she humbly put herself at God’s disposal. I pondered her response in a way I never had before.

In Mary’s famous song of Praise, The Magnificat, we see the evidence of her Old Testament knowledge and her wholehearted trust leading her to praise. As I rehearsed memories that led up to this night, it appeared while I went about my daily life, God’s providential plan was unfolding. No surprise to God, yet a big surprise to me. That’s what we find happening here in Mary’s story, and it planted a small seed of hope that God was up to something in the midst of my pain.

The first part of living a life of faithful obedience is knowing where our obedience comes from, how it is produced. Foundationally it comes as a result of God’s grace through faith because of our union with Jesus Christ. God gives the grace needed to strengthen us to live in faithful obedience amidst life’s painful and confusing circumstances. Genuine faith in Christ produces obedient lives that give God glory.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

It has been twenty-one years since Peter’s death. God continues to use Mary’s narrative to comfort and convict me. Her example of knowing God’s word and it’s call to trust, obey and praise God has been a constant theme. I have reared my four boys who are now grown men. That difficult part of what God called me to is behind me and yet, life circumstances continually give me fresh opportunity to trust God and the grace He supplies to bring about the obedience of faith.

There have been times of questions, doubts and deep wondering about how to live life this way, but God has been faithful. Through His word, the fellowship, love and prayers of brothers and sisters in Christ, God continues to expose the ways I still need be changed to the image of Jesus for His glory. By His grace my faith and love for Him has grown. When the circumstances of life threaten to overwhelm me, I especially remember Mary’s response to God’s appointed plan. Her example of simple but complete trust has encouraged me.

I look back after all these years to those difficult hours the night Peter died, and I see it differently through the eyes of faith. God’s loving care for me there in that room is evident in my mind now. He knew what it would take to grow me up and to this day it is a picture of His grace.

In my mind, I remember how the soft rays of sunlight began to illuminate the dark room in the early morning hours on my first day alone. The memories of my morning routine with Peter greeted me as I picked up the Bible sitting near the fireplace where he had left it. I opened where he had bookmarked and began to read these verses and as I did the first tears began to fall.

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.” Lamentations 3:21-25

Robin Zarate

 

The Paradox of His Providence

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Susannah Spurgeon wrote, after the death of her husband,  an encouraging prayer that will do us well to learn:

“Dear Lord, this is a paradox of Your providence, which both manifests and magnifies the glorious sovereignty of Your grace! Give us such true and tender trust in You, that Your “dealings” may never perplex or terrify us; but, rather, be the openings and discoveries of Your covenant love. Let us learn to read Your ways with us, as a skillful reader interprets a choice book, seeing the sentences in advance, as it were, and thus rendering a clear and continuous impression of the author’s mind and purpose.”*

May God continue to help us learn how to read His Providence as we open His Word and ask the Holy Spirit to teach us, to encourage us, and to increase our faith.

Under His sun and by grace,

Becky Pliego

 

 

 

* http://gracegems.org/SERMONS2/a_basket_of_summer_fruit.htm